Inside the razor wire on Eagle Crest Way, in rural Clallam Bay, Wash., telephone calls start at $3.15. Emails out, beyond the security fence, run 33 cents. Money transfers in, to what pass for bank accounts, cost $4.95.
Within that perimeter lies the Clallam Bay Corrections Center, a state prison — and an attractive business opportunity. One private company, JPay, has a grip on Internet and financial services. Another, Global Tel-Link, controls the phones.
The problem of course is unfettered monopoly, not the private companies per se, but private companies are often more efficient at exploiting the gains from potential monopoly power. Still, government is in on the act too:
In Baldwin County, Ala., for instance, the sheriff’s department collects 84 percent of the gross revenue from calls at the county jail.